President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that Michael Cohen, his former longtime fixer and personal attorney, asked him “directly” for a pardon and subsequently lied to Congress about it – a claim Cohen was quick to deny.
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“Bad lawyer and fraudster Michael Cohen said under sworn testimony that he never asked for a Pardon,” Trump wrote. “His lawyers totally contradicted him. He lied! Additionally, he directly asked me for a pardon. I said NO. He lied again!”
Bad lawyer and fraudster Michael Cohen said under sworn testimony that he never asked for a Pardon. His lawyers totally contradicted him. He lied! Additionally, he directly asked me for a pardon. I said NO. He lied again! He also badly wanted to work at the White House. He lied!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 8, 2019
In testimony before the House Oversight Committee last week, Cohen stated definitively: “I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from President Trump.”
While he and his legal team insist that statement remains true, Lanny Davis, a spokesman for Cohen, conceded earlier this week that Cohen did ask one of his attorneys last summer to inquire with Rudy Giuliani, the president’s current personal attorney, about receiving a pardon.
But Davis said Thursday that Cohen stands by his testimony, citing the language Cohen used in front of the committee.
“[Cohen] never asked President Trump for a pardon,” Davis told ABC News on Thursday, before Trump’s tweet. “His lawyer explored the disingenuous ‘dangle’ repeatedly floated by Rudy and Trump in one meeting and never followed up.”
Shortly after President Trump made his claim, Cohen responded in a tweet of his own, calling the president’s suggestion that Cohen directly asked for a pardon “just another set of lies.”
Friday’s social media exchange marks the latest escalation of Cohen’s fraught relationship with the president, a man whom Cohen served for almost a decade.
Just a day earlier, Cohen filed a civil lawsuit in New York state court against the Trump Organization for legal fees accrued as part of numerous congressional hearings and federal investigations, seeking nearly $4 million.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, congressional Republicans have taken new steps to pin Cohen with lying to Congress – charges to which he already pleaded guilty last year.
Two top Republicans on the panel, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., referred Cohen’s testimony to the Justice Department last week, alleging he committed perjury on six occasions during his open hearing, including his denial that he sought a White House job as Trump first came into office.
On Thursday, Jordan said his staff is preparing to send an updated criminal referral to the Justice Department to include Cohen’s comment about never asking Trump for a pardon.
Cohen pleaded guilty late last year to charges including campaign finance violations, tax fraud and lying to Congress. He was sentenced in December to three years in prison, and his term is expected to begin May 6.